Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Reading

Highly recommended:
  • State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. The Amazon Jungle. The pharmeceutical industry and a tree bark that prolongs fertility into women's elder years. A strong-minded, autocratic, opinionated, manipulative mentor. Her student, who gave medicine up after a delivery-gone-wrong and turned to drug research.. Conrad's Heart of Darkness, with a true heart. (Here's a review, but be warned that it gives away much of the plot.) 
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly. Another high point in one of my favroite genres: feisty young girls who are smart, clever, a bit difficult to get along with, and ready to take on the world. In this case, the world of Darwin and science and the natural world, with the mentorship of her grandfather. Set in Texas in 1899, and also a nice look into post-Civil War culture and relations between servants and family in those years. I'm wishing for a sequel.
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. Come on, people! I think that this book is supposed to be funny. The author writes, with a great deal of self-reflective irony, about her efforts to raise her daughters in the Chinese way. The tone is reminiscent of the best novels with unreliable narrators (Tristram Shandy) and women's voices that are so overly confident that you are able to peek behind the curtain of authorial confidence to see the flaws in their arguments (the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters). I found it to be well-written, highly entertaining, and, in the end, clearly demonstrative of a mother who loves and wants the best for her daughters, even when it requires them teaching her to be the mother that they need.
Hope that you are making time to sit still and read. Even better, beside an ocean or lake.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Without Camera but Somewhat Productive,all the same

It doesn't seem like a blog post without a photo, and my little Nikon Coolpix has given up the ghost (Lens Error - over $100 to repair, which is exactly the cost of a new one - why is repairing technology so costly and aimed at you throwing something out instead of fixing it?). So, no pictures.

And so, a post of words.

I'm trying to focus on finishing knitting projects that have been hanging about and causing anxiety. So far, done with the shop model of the Summer Flies shawl. Great pattern. Easy, except for the Open Eyelet section at the end. Tip: On the purl rows, you want to work every stitch, including the two inside the passed over stitch on the previous row.

And yesterday, as we drove into and back out from lunch at Lula Cafe (my favorite restaurant in Chicago), I took out and then started to redo the front of my Liesl dress. I'm substituting Tahki Ripple for the Euroflax in the original pattern. Not sure if it was the best call, but all that's left to do is seam the front straps to the back and stitch up the pockets.

In the train on Saturday evening (back and forth to Grant Park for a concert), I took out the 5 leaves from the edging on my Cedar Leaf Shawlette, did a few rows of garter stitch, and cast off. Now I need to look at a Nicky Epstein book for an alternate edging. The leaves were going sooo slowly, and I was afraid that I would run out of yarn about halfway through. I'm using a Madeline Tosh Pashmina which I bought in Pittsburgh, and there's little chance of finding another skein, if I ran out halfway across.

Next up, forcing myself to try to finish a sweater whose name I can't even recall at the moment. That's how long it's been since I worked on it. It's an Ysolda Teague pattern from Twist Collective, with a hood and tons of cables and seed stitches. (Ah, here it is: Vivian.) All that is left is working down one sleeve from shoulder to wrist (I modified the pattern), the second sleeve, and then adding a zipper as closure. This one will be a chore, but I'd love to be able to put it behind me, after two years or more of on-and-off knitting.

And my Mitered Square Blanket. About 20 balls of the Tahki Cotton Classic left. Then seaming. I was amused to notice the exact same blanket in a Kaffe Fassett book (Glorious Color? Glorious Knitting?) It's in the background of a photo, and I thought, hmm, that's interesting. I'd always connected this pattern with other designers. Still beautiful. Still fun to work. And closure at mini-levels: finishing one square, seaming up two squares, seaming up an entire block.